Today concludes a sermon series that we have been enjoying on the life of Abram. In June we are going to begin a series on Abraham. That will be part two of the life of this great man.
Even though Abram was great, that does not mean that he was perfect. Abram had warts! We all do. The Bible portrays each person, warts and all. we all have them. And they're given to us so we might learn and profit by them, and gain courage because of them. So, let's come to Genesis 16 in our Bible.
Look at Abram's home life in Genesis 16. The greatest Old Testament figure that ever lived had some bad domestic problems. Sarai had been barren in Haran, and now she was infertile in the Fertile Crescent. No fertility doctor was available. They were un-invented in those days. Abram wanted a son. But he and Sari were getting too old. She was 75 and he was 86! Time was running out. So they tried to help God out. Are our problems bigger than God can handle by Himself? So Sarai got ahead of God.
In Genesis 15:4, God had said that a son would be born from Abram's very own seed. Probably over and over Sarai pondered that promise. "If we're going to have a son through his seed. I'm not mentioned in that promise. Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's some other woman with his seed. Our son." And she got a brilliant idea. "I know what I will do," she said. "God never did say that I would be the one to carry the seed. God only said a son would be born from Abram's seed." Sarai had an attractive young maid they had gotten down in Egypt named Hagar. Hagar could be the surrogate mother. That would work. "She could take my place." The plan looked flawless.
She had prayed for ten long years. She had waited and waited and the only thing she got was silence. Days melted into weeks which melted into months. The months melted into years. And nothing happened. There was no answer. She never got pregnant. Have you ever prayed and the only answer is silence? Now, with her back to the wall, she must take things into her own hands. Genesis 16:2. So she said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maid servant; perhaps I can build a family through her." There's a lot in that verse, isn't there.
"God has kept me from getting pregnant." Who is she blaming? Why are we so quick to blame God if the tree falls down on our house? "It's an act of God." I don't know why we do that. "God has kept me from getting pregnant." Apparently she knew she would never get pregnant. Maybe she had now gone through menopause. Sarai and Abram knew it was all over. Their hopes were forever gone. But God's promises aren't reached through our innate abilities but by His supernatural power. We must never forget that. God waited until her womb was dead so that all could know that the birth of a son was supernatural.
Was her idea of using Hagar legal? Yes, it was. According to the legislative code of Hammurabi she was justified with such a deed (See section 146 of the code). However what is lawful in the world is not always Godly. We can't have a son by proxy any more that we can be saved by proxy. If God says to do it a certain way, we need to stick with His word. And so they had a substitute. Satan always wants us to substitute something else for what God has planned. The devil is never ever satisfied, and so he wants to substitute Sunday for Sabbath. He wants to substitute a wrongful philosophy on the state of the dead. The devil has so many substitutes. In fact this substitute was so real to the actual that for thirteen years Abram was fooled and thought that Ishmael was really was the promised son.
We are so much like Sarai. Maybe our church is not producing the fruit we want to see. We really should seek the Lord if that' a problem and wait for His will. But instead, we hire Hagar. We go to Hagar. We seek the world. We seek the World's council for our spiritual needs. Maybe our kids are rambunctious and out of control. We go to Egypt for advice instead of waiting on God. Thus we bring in Hagar. See how that works? Galatians 4:21-27 says that Hagar's children are slaves but we are free if we are children of the promise. We don't want to be slaves. So let's do it the right way.
So, in Genesis 16:2, Sarai blame God for her problems. And we're so quick to blame God and so slow to give God the credit. We've got things mixed up, don't we.
Look at Genesis 16:3. In verse 3, it says that Sarai and Abram left the path of faith for a plan of their own making. They had been living in Canaan for ten years. And Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, and gave her to her husband to be his wife. They left the plan of God, they left the path of God for a plan of their own making. Hagar entered Abram's tent and became wife number two. Thus, polygamy reared its ugly head right there in their camp. This was not God's plan. Actually, Sarai and Abram were tit for tat. Remember that earlier he gave her to Pharaoh and now she gives Hagar to him.
In taking Hagar, Abram set an example, did he not? Later his grandson Jacob would marry two ladies, Rachel and Leah who had a similar problem in getting pregnant and so they had Bilhah and Zilpah their maids that were given to Jacob. Where did Jacob get that example? Where did Jacob get that idea from of not waiting on God? He got it from Abram. Abram set the example. When you make a decision, you need to think beyond what your act will accomplish for you. Think of your example to your children. If you drink, what are they going to do? If you do drugs, be careful.
Genesis 16:4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. I am amazed that Abram would what he did. But he did. I would not think that he would do that. Today, we would call that actually call this adultery, wouldn't we? Isn't that what it was? I'm surprised he would do that. He did. He mixed righteous seed with the ungodly. Hagar became the first of Abram's other concubines. You know, he had other concubines (Genesis 25:6). Abram should have waited. He should not have taken things in his own hands. Is this the same Abram we met back there when he would not even take a shoestring from the king of Sodom because he knew that God was actually going to give him the land anyway? Is this the same Abram? They should have waited. All three of them, Abram, Sarai, and Hagar, were worse off for moving ahead of God. Faith waits on God. God's delay tested their patience. Actually, they were going through an examination, a test. This was a test of heaven.
Revelation 14:12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. The saints know how to patiently wait.
Now listen to this. I read this in a book called, Reflecting Christ, a devotional book several years ago, page 325. I didn't know this. "If (Abram) had endured the first test and had patiently waited for the promise to be fulfilled in Sarah, and had not taken Hagar as his wife, he would not have been subjected to the closest test that was ever required of man." He would not have been asked to sacrifice Isaac. Wow. That's amazing, isn't it. He never would have been asked to do that had he not taken Hagar into his tent.
Abram slept with Hagar. One open sin always brings a mountainous pile of bills that have to be paid. Every day Sarai the legitimate wife had to deal with Hagar's superior proud haughty looks and words. Each woman found fault with the other. In Proverbs 30:21 and 23. Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up:....And unloved woman who is married, and a maidservant who displaces her mistress. Solomon says the earth trembles when a maid displaces her mistress. That's what happened. Quarreling and faultfinding never ceased. For a long time, thirteen years. You know, when you set out to find fault with somebody, all you will find is fault. You won't find anything else. Conflict, bickering, quarreling, arguing soon filled that happy little valley. Dark shadows chased away the light.
Genesis 16:5. Sarai knew that things were not right. So she blamed Abram for the troubles! Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering." She blamed her husband. And whose idea was it? At this point Sarai doesn't seem too saintly! The Bible later pictures her as an ideal wife. An ideal wife! In fact, 1 Peter 3:6 says that all faithful Christian women are daughters of Sarah, that great mother of Israel. I suppose even saints sometimes don't act too saintly. Imagine the yelling, fighting and red hot arguments between Abram and his two wives.
Genesis 16:6 "Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. So, Sarai heaved Hagar.
Abram did a shocking thing here. He gave up his Lordship as head of the household to Sarai. He said, "Just do whatever you want. I'm going to wash my hands of the whole thing. You just do whatever you think. I just don't know what to do. She's in your hands." He was supposed to be the head of the house. Like Pilate, he said: I wash my hands of this, she is in your hands. When he yielded his headship to Sarai, things got even worse.
Earlier Sarai had yielded a woman's most cherished right to Hagar. This was a considerable sacrifice on her part to allow Hagar to enter the tent with her husband. She did that to give her husband a son. And now, Abram yields his headship to Sarai so that she may have peace. See how they want to help each other? She wanted to give him a son, and did it the wrong way. He wanted to make peace in the family, and did it the wrong way. They did love each other, very much. And only when you give up your rights can your marriage be successful. Your marriage is never going to be successful when you have your rights and you have your rights. You've got to both give up your rights. And that's what's going on here.
Now Hagar did a terrible thing by going into his tent, didn't she? Do we blame Hagar for this? Was it Hagar's fault? Actually she was just a heathen Egyptian. It was God's chosen people who failed, was it not? By taking things into their own hands, Abram failed God as the spiritual head of the home. Sarai failed by not being a godly wife. Poor Hagar was caught in the middle. She was actually placed in this Godly home where you would hope she might accept the true God as her God. But in their sin, Abram and Sarai lost their witness with Hagar. She was treated worse than the dog in this Christian home. Finally she fled! She did the right thing. When a woman is physically abused she should leave. Don't stay there and risk your life. Hagar was abused, at least mentally, and she left.
Who treated her harshly? It was God's own people. It was the church. Backsliders are produced right in the church. If someone fails you in the church, forgive them. Don't give up on Jesus or His church. Don't run away. Hagar ran from Sarai. Hagar probably thought about It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman. - Proverbs 21:19. And so she left Sarai.
Imagine poor pregnant Hagar with tears in her eyes running down the hot dusty road. Running toward Egypt. Reverting back to the world. Returning to the land of sin and death. Leaving God. Backsliding. She had thought God's way might be the way of life. But she had been wrong. I would imagine here this would be the last we will ever hear from Hagar, wouldn't you? That would be the natural thing, I think. Except for verse seven.
Genesis 16:7 (KJV). And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
You can't run away from God. You can run away from Sarai, but you cannot run away from God. Who was it that found her? Actually it was Jesus Christ Himself (verse 13). It was the Lord Himself. When our world comes crashing down, and we run away at a breath taking speed, God comes and finds us, not to chastise us and spank us. He comes to help us. Jesus came looking for her. When did Jesus find her? When she stopped running. She was sitting by the road. When you stop Jesus comes.
Jesus seeks those who are discouraged. He found her by a spring, a fountain beside the road. That tells you that she was thirsty. She was tanking up on water. She needed more than water. She needed Jesus, the fountain of life. And he was there. She needed Jesus. In verse 8 Jesus called her by name. Jesus knows our names. Jesus knows all about us and our troubles. I would think that Jesus loved Hagar just as much as He did Abram. He loves all of us. And notice that He didn't call her Abram's wife. No. He called her "Sarai's servant." Heaven never did recognize that marriage.
Jesus asked her two questions.
Genesis 16:9 Jesus told her to go back and submit. ..."Go back to your mistress and submit to her (Sarai)." Those were tough words, weren't they. Sarah, that nasty, fighting woman, "Go back and submit to her." Ooh, that's tough! What did Hagar do? She made a U-turn on the road of death and she found true life. Now, I think this could represent the conversion of Hagar. I thought about that. She turned around. She believed Jesus, didn't she? And by her belief, by her trust, she was saved. So here is her conversion. She was saved by trusting in Jesus. I don't know if she lost it later, but that's how we are all saved. And God gave her a look at her own future here in verse 10: "...I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count." Genesis 16:11,12. The angel of the Lord also said to her: "You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." Sometimes it would be better if we didn't know what out children are going to be like. "Here's what your little baby is going to be like. He'll be a wild donkey of a man. His hand will be against everyone and everybody's hand will be against him. He will live in hostility toward all of his brothers."
Verse 12 is packed full, isn't it. Here is the first Arab and here's God's description of Ishmael. Today Muslims claim to have descended from Abram through Ishmael. From that time Ishmael's descendants have lived in hostility to the Israelites (see Gen 25:18). Today many of them occupy the rich oil reserves in the Middle East. These two groups continue to hate each other to this day. All that bloodshed, that anarchy that's going on over there in the Middle East. Like a wild donkey the hatred has reverted to bloodshed and anarchy. I will tell you that there will never be peace in the middle East this side of Jesus' coming.
Now, Abram was forgiven for his blunder, of course. But forgiveness does not usually erase the consequences of our sins. They last for generations. The Arab-Israeli conflict today started when Abram allowed Hagar to enter his tent. The jealousy and hurt have only grown deeper over the centuries. The bombing of the World Trade Towers had it's source in Abram's tent. The next time you watch the evening news remember the importance of your personal decisions. They last for generations.
Genesis 16:9. Hagar did two difficult things: She returned and She submitted.
I want to close by talking about this.
1. She did RETURN. It was not God's will for her to run from her problems. Have you ever decided that "What I really should do is to run from my problem? I should just escape. Go somewhere else." That is not God's will. When our marriage goes sour, we want to run. We want to separate. We want to leave. But perhaps God wants you to stay by and try one more time. Stick it out with your boss, your wife, your church, your friend, your family. We triumph not by running but by returning. Hagar returned.
2. She SUBMITTED. Imagine her getting up her courage and reentering the camp. And Sarai says: "What are you doing back here? I thought I told you to leave and never come back." Imagine that moment. It was tough. "What are you doing here?" And Hagar says, "Well, you aren't going to believe this, but I'm a believer now. The Angel of the Lord, Jesus, met me on the road and talked with me. I believed Him. And He told me to come back, so here I am. I was wrong. I had a bad attitude. I am here to submit to you. I am here to be your humble maid just like I was before." Friends, do you know that submission is a tool that Jesus gives so that we can achieve peace and happiness. Life is about ten percent what you make it and about ninety percent how you take it. - (Wiersbe).
So, my conclusion here today:
I have so much enjoyed this series. I hope you have enjoyed it. We have Communion next week. Please come to that. And may God bless you.
Hymn of Praise: #1, Praise to the Lord Scripture: Genesis 16:4-6 Hymn of Response: #99, God Will Take Care of You 020323Gettys#517
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last updated 3/25/2002 by Bob Beckett.